Cliff May

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was the mastermind behind the terrorist atrocities of Sept. 11, 2001. If U.S. intelligence operatives had spotted him in a remote area of Pakistan, and killed him with a Predator missile, most people would have said: "That's justice."

Instead, of course, KSM was captured in an urban area of Pakistan by U.S. intelligence operatives who then interrogated him -- including through use of the technique known as waterboarding -- thereby leaving him alive and eliciting from him information about other terrorist plots in which innocent Americans had been targeted. Why are so many people insisting that's an injustice, a scandal and a crime for which intelligence operatives and former government officials ought to be prosecuted?

During a time of asymmetrical war, such questions deserve serious debate. But the current administration doesn't appear to have the patience and much of the mainstream media don't seem to have the interest.

President Obama ordered a review of "enhanced interrogation techniques" (EITs) to determine which he would -- and would not -- authorize. Presumably, he'd want to know which techniques are (A) effective, and (B) not so brutal as to rise to the level of torture. But the President's decision to release -- against the advice of his CIA director and four former CIA directors -- top secret Justice Department memos on the interrogation program have rendered that study moot.

On the same day those memos were released, Obama's national intelligence director, Admiral Dennis Blair, told colleagues in a private memo that the now banned EITs did indeed "produce significant information that helped the nation in its struggle with terrorists."

Over the weekend, the Washington Post ran a front-page piece on "ethicists" alleging that psychologists and physicians who supervised CIA interrogations "broke the law and shame the bedrock ethical traditions of medicine and psychology."

Left unexamined was the likelihood that these health professionals had been tasked with ensuring that interrogations did not cross reasonable legal, medical and ethical boundaries, did not reach the point that they would "shock the conscience" which, as former CIA Director Michael Hayden told Fox News' Chris Wallace, is the "American standard" for torture. Hayden added: "You have to know the totality of circumstances in which something takes place before you can judge whether or not it shocks the conscience."


Cliff May

Clifford D. May is the President of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.